regime dumps chemical, nuclear waste in West Bank
5 July 2002
Palestinian Authority's 'minister for the environment'
Yousef Abu Safiyya, has accused (Israel) of turning the Palestinian
Authority- ruled area of the West Bank into a vast dumping-ground
for its domestic industrial, chemical and nuclear waste, thereby
creating a potentially catastrophic environmental nightmare. The
highly toxic material is not only from Israel's factories
and defense- establishments, but also from Jewish settlements,
whose European and American inhabitants pursue lifestyles
that generate huge amounts of refuse. In press interviews earlier
this month, Dr Abu Safiyya explained that the Israelis save money
by hiring Palestinians to bury the material for a pittance,
instead of treating it in their own facilities at very high
The secret dumping was first discovered after the establishment
of the Palestinian National Authority (PA), and although some
dumping- grounds have been discovered, the minister said that
there may still more to be found. He claimed that the PA had the
equipment to monitor dumping.
Abu Safiyya cited discovery of 29 barrels of toxic
waste in the Khan Yunis region. An analysis of their contents showed
that they are toxic waste from Jewish settlements. The settlers
bribe Palestinians to smuggle the waste into PA areas and dump it.
The destruction of a barrel of toxic waste at Israel's national
environmental facility costs $2,000; smuggling a barrel into
Palestinian areas costs only $25 - paid to the Palestinian
hired hand, who of course is unaware of the health risks he
The PA has also discovered hundreds of barrels in the north
of the West Bank over the last two years, an d are presently
talking to Israeli authorities about 223 barrels of toxic waste
in the Janin area which the Israelis refuse to collect. "I
met with the Israeli minister for the environment and asked
her to apply the Basil treaty, which is the relevant international
instrument on the movement of toxic material, but she replied
that international treaties do not apply to Palestinians because
they have no state," Abu-Abu Safiyya said.
The Israelis turned down the request to remove the waste
out of hand. "They told us that they could not receive
the barrels because Israeli law bans the movement of toxic material
inside Israel except on the approval of top officials," Dr
Abu Safiyya explained.
The toxic waste dumped in the West Bank ranges from the by-products
of the Israeli military industry, some of which are radioactive,
to chemical substances which are highly damaging to the environment.
Some are so toxic that they are capable of causing cancer on a
massive scale. Thirty cancer-causing chemicals have so far
been identified, Abu-Abu Safiyya said.
This lethal poisoning of the Palestinian environment comes on top
of the fall-out from experiments and tests at Israel's Diamond
nuclear station. Israel, which officially denies having nuclear
weapons, has been known to carry out tests with US finance and
expertise. Palestinians believe that the sporadic earth-tremors
experienced in their areas are caused by the explosion of
nuclear devices at Dimona nuclear station, and in the
desert. In other countries, such tests are carried out in
remote and uninhabited areas, but occupied Palestine is too small
for that to be possible. Clearly, however, the Israelis place
far less value on the lives of Palestinians than of Jews.
The minister also revealed that the ageing reactors at Diamond
are the source of pollutants that are extremely damaging to the
environment. Not only are the reactors 30 years old, but there
are also satellite pictures which show that "the protective
walls of the reactors have been eaten into," he said.
"And if nuclear substances escape into the atmosphere
as a result of these defects, the Palestinian areas would be
the most vulnerable because we have no protective capabilities,"